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The History of Vodka


Where Does the Word Vodka Come From?

The first recorded use of the word ‘vodka’ was in Polish court documents from as far back as 1405! However, back then the word ‘vodka’ would be used to refer to medical or cosmetic products.

Fun Fact: WW2 made tracking the history of vodka very hard due to the destruction of distilleries and economic turmoil. The oldest fully-intact distillery in Poland is Sobieski, in Starogard Gdańsk - built in 1869.

Vodka as we know it was first referred to as ‘gorzałka’, an old Polish word meaning ‘to burn’.


Where does vodka come from?

The origins of vodka are hotly contested. Very little historical information exists, and with several countries along the ‘Vodka Belt’ laying claim to the spirit, there is no definitive answer as to where vodka came from.

Wierzynek, a restaurant in Kraków, was founded in 1369 as a dining hall for visiting dignitaries - it has been making it’s own vodka the whole time. Their precise vodka recipe dates back to the mid-1400s, and while they had to move production offsite in the mid-1990s for legal reasons, it's still the same taste and recipe as it was over 550 years ago!

However, it is widely accepted that modern vodka as we know it originates from Russia and Poland.


What is the Vodka Belt?

The regions considered part of the Vodka Belt include the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, the Nordic States, Belarus, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

Fun Fact:  The Vodka belt countries consumer more vodka than any others. Consumption Per Person (Shots) Per Month (Source: Euromonitor) Russia = 17.28, Poland = 13.71, Ukraine = 9.96

These countries produce nearly 70% of all vodka! produced in the EU countries and have long been associated with the production and consumption of vodka.


Notable dates in vodka history

The first recorded use of the word ‘vodka’ - It is mentioned in Polish court documents
The first drinking establishment in Moscow opens during the reign of Catherine II
Ivan the Terrible introduces new higher taxes on Vodka to replenish the royal treasury
Potatoes are first introduced to Europe by the Spanish
The first industrial distillery is opened in Lwów by J. A. Baczewski
Vodka overtakes Whiskey to become the U.S's best selling spirit for the first time
Russian Governments monopoly on vodka production is repealed
Russian Tzar Nicholas II bans all vodka across Russia
Countrywide prohibition begins in the United States of America
James Bond drinks his first martini in the book ‘Casino Royale’
Rapper Ja Rule releases track ‘“Black Vodka”
The Global Vodka Alliance is formed

The History of Vodka

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